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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bradbury on Hemingway

Posted By on 06.07.12 at 03:24 PM

Ray Bradbury
  • Ray Bradbury
When I was young I read everything by Ray Bradbury I could get my hands on. He was a fantasist, and so is every child. Later I felt the same way about Ernest Hemingway.

For what it's worth—probably not much—both writers hailed from towns outside Chicago, Bradbury Waukegan and Hemingway Oak Park. Each in his turn taught me the same lesson—that it takes courage and imagination to see the world (in Bradbury's case the universe) as it truly is, and to be spared that sight most of us cauterize our imaginations and let doctrine act as our eyes. Each made me feel that was about the most shameful thing an adult could do.

Bradbury, much the happier man of the two, just died at the age of 91. Hemingway was 61 in 1961 when he committed suicide. Among the legion of admirers troubled by that death was Bradbury, and he did something about it. In 1965 he wrote a short story called "The Kilimanjaro Machine."

Bradbury explained in his introduction:

I tried but could find no way to throw off the pall that settled upon me after his death. Then, not long ago, I happened on a newspaper article. A reporter had gone to Ketchum, Idaho, to look around and interview the locals. There, he found a hunter who remembered well. He remembered seeing the writer often—head bent in thought, health obviously failing—walking down the road. "That poor old man on the road," the hunter said.

The phrase hit me hard. I simply had to get that "old man" off the road. I could not leave him there.

Life magazine rarely published fiction. It made an exception for Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. It made another for Bradbury's "Kilimanjaro Machine." Here, from the pages of Life, is that story.

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